New York City FC travels to Montreal today for Wednesday night’s MLS showdown.
To get you prepped, Managing Editor Mark Booth picks out five Major Keys to the Match…
Atlanta’s win over Montreal on Sunday meant that NYCFC became the second team in the league to qualify for the postseason with four games to spare.
In just our third year of competition, it’s no small achievement to have reached the Playoffs so early in the campaign and speaks to a consistency of results throughout the season.
However, Patrick Vieira and his team know there is still work to do in order to ensure that we avoid the Knockout Round and go straight to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Our draw with Houston on Saturday made it three games without a victory – the longest such run of the campaign, and so Vieira will be eager to get back to winning ways at the Saputo Stadium.
Diego Valeri struck twice for Portland as the Timbers routed Orlando City 3-0 last weekend.
Those two goals were enough to see the Argentine leapfrog David Villa onto the top of the MLS Golden Boot podium with 20 to David’s 19.
It’s starting to look like a straight shootout between Valeri and Villa for both the Golden Boot and for the MVP crown after El Guaje’s injury sustained on international duty enabled the Portland man to continue his incredible scoring run and go to the top of the scoring rankings unopposed.
Now David’s back and has minutes back in his legs, he’ll be hoping to fire against a Montreal side he has scored five goals against in just six appearances.
Most importantly, that will boost our chances of the W but it would also have the pleasing side effect of getting David back to the top of the Golden Boot race and in line for that historic back-to-back MVP award.
Head to Head
NYCFC have only been beaten once by Montreal in six meetings.
Vieira has never tasted defeat against the Canadian side but the Boys in Blue were held by the Impact at Yankee Stadium earlier this year.
Montreal are struggling for form at home of late, having gone three games without picking up a point and so they will be targeting this game as one to get their Playoffs challenge back on track.
Although NYC have gone three games without a victory, we are undefeated in three road games following our weekend match in East Hartford and we have conceded just two goals in those three matches.
The defensive solidity seems to be there… now it’s just a case of taking our chances at the business end to ensure we rediscover our winning touch.
Speaking of stout defenses, NYCFC are shipping fewer goals than ever before on recent form.
Since August 12, no team in the league has conceded fewer than the five let in by Sean Johnson and company.
Johnson leads the league in that time when it comes to saves per shot (83.9%), keeping out 26 efforts, including 12 from outside the box.
Although we’ve struggled to match the goals-per-game ratio we’ve enjoyed for the majority of the season in recent times, there’s optimism for the Playoffs to be derived from what’s happening at the other end of the field as we prepare for this final straight of the Regular Season.
Although the Houston game didn’t work out exactly as we hoped, with NYC unable to find the late winner despite a late cavalry charge, it was great to see Alex Ring complete the 90’ at the heart of midfield.
The Finland international has been a revelation in his first season in MLS and is already a firm fans’ favorite, thanks to his combative, tenacious patrols of the middle third.
Strong in the tackle and technically excellent, Alex is an important member of this NYCFC team and is coming back at the perfect time to strengthen our hopes of that automatic bye to the Eastern Conference semis.